How to Install New Keyboards on Your iPhone

iOS 8 Keyboard

Itching to get rid of the default keyboard that comes built into every iPhone? Good news: in iOS 8, you can install custom keyboards on your phone. Read on to learn more.

Since the debut of the iPhone, Apple has only offered a single keyboard option for writing emails, text messages, and other text. While Apple stuck to that traditional, some would say boring, keyboard, all sorts of alternative keyboards appeared for Android. These keyboards offer different kinds of predictive text, new ways to enter text (in fluid motions rather than typing individual keys, for instance), and much more.

Starting in iOS 8, users can install new keyboards and make them the default option that appears whenever they need to enter text. Here's what you need to use an alternate keyboard on the iPhone:

  • A phone running iOS 8 or higher—The ability to add custom keyboards was introduced in iOS 8, so you'll need to make sure your phone is running that OS before you proceed.
  • A keyboard app installed on your phone—In the iOS, custom keyboards are actually apps that provide the keyboard functionality. As a result, you don't simply install a keyboard; rather, you install a keyboard app. More on these apps later in this article.

Installing a New Keyboard

Now that you know these two requirements, here's how to install a new keyboard:

  1. Download the keyboard app you want from the App Store and install it on your phone
  2. Tap the Settings app on your home screen
  3. Tap General
  4. Swipe towards the bottom of the screen and tap Keyboard
  5. Tap Keyboards
  6. Tap Add New Keyboard
  7. In this menu, you'll see a list of any third-party keyboards you have installed on your phone. Find the one that you want to use and tap it. This will add the new keyboard to your list of available keyboards.

Using a New Keyboard

Now that you've got a new keyboard installed, you need to know how to use it in your apps. Luckily, it's very easy. 

When the keyboard appears in your apps—such as when you're writing an email or text—the third-party keyboard you added will appear as the default option. If you want to switch back to the standard keyboard, or the emoji keyboard, just tap the globe icon near the bottom left corner of the keyboard (in some keyboard apps, the globe may be replaced with another icon, such as the app's logo). In the menu that pops up, select your new keyboard and begin using it.

It's possible to have more than one third-party keyboard at a time. Simply follow the steps to install them above and then select the one you want in each instance as just described.

Custom Keyboard Apps

If you're looking to try out some custom keyboards on your phone, check out these apps:

  • Swype—One of the most famous alternate keyboards, Swype has long been available on Android and other devices. Instead of typing one letter at a time, in ​Swype you drag your finger across multiple keys to form words. US$0.99 Download at iTunes
  • SwiftKey—SwiftKey offers gesture-based input like Swype, but its major distinguishing factor is the way it tries to predict your next word to make your writing faster and more accurate. SwiftKey examines the contents of your Gmail account, Twitter feed, and Facebook page to get a sense for the kinds of words you use and applies that knowledge to what you write on your iPhone. Free Download at iTunes
  • Fleksy—Fleksy bills itself as the fastest keyboard in the world (with some corroboration from the Guinness Book of World Records). Beyond speed, it offers colorful themes, custom gestures, multi-language support, and a resizable keyboard.  $0.99 Download at iTunes
  • Minuum—Minuum's claim to fame is that it can get small. That is, you can shrink the Minuum keyboard so it takes up less space on the screen, leaving more of what you're writing visible. It also supports some gestures. People fanatically devoted to seeing as much of their iPhone screen as possible—and with great eyesight—will want to check it out. $1.99 Download at iTunes
  • KuaiBoard—Forget a different way to type messages; with KuaiBoard, you can insert pre-written blocks of text from a few simple keyboard taps. Because of that, it's not really a replacement for the main iOS keyboard. Instead, it's a utility that makes emailing, texting, and other tasks faster by providing text for you. $1.99 Download at iTunes

For a fuller look at iPhone keyboard apps, check out 16 Great Alternate iPhone Keyboards.